A travel journal
to Port Angeles by lcampbell
Quote: The Olympic Peninsula has a lot to offer--from snow-covered mountains to the Pacific Ocean, all types of outdoor adventure are plentiful. Add to that the small-town pleasures offered in Port Angeles, and I can’t think of a better place to spend time--in any season.
Within a 2-week time span in January, I snow-shoed at 6,000 feet on Hurricane Ridge, biked the Olympic Discovery Trail, went hiking, and kayaked on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I cannot think of anywhere else where such recreational diversity can be found in so small an area, year-round.
Plus, when not recreating, I spent time at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, the Marine Life Center, and enjoyed the good food, great shopping, a waterfront trail, the city pier, and the local farmers' markets in town.
This journal is made as a supplement to my two previous journals: Going Local in Port Angeles, The Olympic Peninsula and Olympic Peninsula Roadtrip. It is best to use all three journals together to get a full and comprehensive idea of what the area has to offer.
If you plan to attack the outdoor fun no matter what the weather, be sure you have a good rain jacket and rain pants. You will get wet regardless of rain gear, so just resolve that you will be wet and probably cold, but that a hot shower and dry clothes are waiting for you when you get done. Just recently a friend and I did a 9-mile hike in the rain, but changed into dry clothes that we kept in the car at the trailhead before driving home, stopping for hot chocolate on the way!
One is to fly into the Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles and go from there. There is also a shuttle bus that runs from Sea-Tac airport to Port Angeles. The cost is one-way, or round-trip. It only runs twice a day, so its schedule may not necessarily match up with your flight. The shuttle can be reached at (360) 417-0700.
For those who want to stick strictly to public transportation, I believe you can get to Port Angeles using a combination of King County, Jefferson County, and Clallam County buses. You may also have to take a Washington State ferry trip. Once on the Olympic Peninsula, Jefferson and Clallam Country Transit cover the whole peninsula, including the entire Highway 101 loop and even up to Neah Bay. And the prices are excellent--I can get from Port Angeles to the Kalaloch Lodge on the coast (2hours by car) for only .75!!!
Attraction | "Winter fun on Hurricane Ridge, Olympic Nat'l Park"
The winter fun on Hurricane Ridge is plentiful! There are areas set aside for sledding and inner-tubing. On the day that I went up, there were many families frolicking on sleds and taking cute family pictures, with kids acting like kids and adults acting like kids. While there are no chairlifts, there is a rope tow to take downhill skiers and snowboarders to the top of a moderate hill. The more adventurous downhill folks head for the backcountry and ski and snowboard some wild areas, but must be tough enough to hike back up the hills after the fun run is over. This is a pretty risky venture, as there is a danger of avalanche, and of not being found if needed in these remote areas. I recommend sticking to established downhill areas. Finally, opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are limitless. There are somewhat established cross-country and snowshoe trails, and again I recommend sticking to those. Since I am dangerously uncoordinated on cross-country skiis, I borrowed a pair of snowshoes for a 3-mile (one-way) trek up Hurricane Hill. My pictures are from that sunny, perfect day.
The visitor center on Hurricane Ridge is open when the road is open. There is a ranger or volunteer available to answer questions, and also a snack shop, gift shop, and restrooms. There are free ranger-guided snowshoe walks on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 2pm on the days the road is open.
Cross-country ski equipment and snowshoes are available for rent in Port Angeles at Olympic Mountaineering. The cross-country ski package is $16 per day. The snowshoe package is $12 per day. Olympic Mountaineering also gives cross-country ski and avalanche classes. Call them at (360) 452-0240 or see their website. The Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club gives downhill and snowboard lessons. Their number is (360) 417-1542. They would also have information regarding possible downhill ski and snowboard rental.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 12, 2003
Hurricane Ridge/Olympic National Park
Hurricane Ridge Road, Off Mount Angeles Road
Port Angeles, Washington
Attraction | "Biking the Olympic Discovery Trail"
We started by begging a ride from my husband to our starting point at Railroad Bridge Park in Sequim. To get there, take Highway 101 east from Port Angeles to the exit at River Road near Sequim. At the stop sign after exiting, turn left (north) and follow River Road around a 90-degree curve to the right. Take the first left after the curve onto Priest Road, and then turn left again when Priest Road ends (follow signs).
The trail starts by crossing the bridge over the scenic Dungeness River. After a short wooded stretch, we biked through a series of farm, residential, and even business areas. It was nice but not terribly scenic. We could hear traffic from Highway 101, which wasn’t far away.
The trail temporarily ends at Vautier Road. I had been on this trail before, so I knew to turn right onto Vautier, and then turn left on Old Olympic Highway and follow it for about 3 miles until connecting with the trail again. This was not marked by signs or anything, which is one complaint that I have about the route. This is the only part of the trail between Sequim and Port Angeles that is not completed. I don’t normally like biking on roads with a lot of traffic, but the shoulder of Old Olympic Highway is pretty wide, and we felt safe biking it.
The trail starts again where you see a green sign with a bicycle on it that says "Bike Route" going on a small road to the right. For a while the trail gets hillier, more scenic, and very quiet. It crosses through wooded areas, creek drainages, and sparse residential areas. This was one of my favorite sections of the trail. About 13 miles into the trip, the trail swings back over close to Highway 101 (too close!) and then drops down to the Morse Creek drainage. Here we crossed another "railroad trestle turned bridge" and went through the final small wooded section before reaching the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The last 3 miles to Port Angeles directly follows the water. It is so beautiful, definitely my favorite part of the trip. We saw a harbor seal, always curious animals, looking at us before disappearing underwater. It was a great end to our 2.5-hour biking adventure.
Bikes are available for rent at Sound Bike and Kayak, 120 E. Front St., in Port Angeles, for $9 for the first hour, $5 each additional hour, or $30 per day. Call (360)457-1240.
Olympic Discovery Trail
Port Angeles, Washington
Attraction | "Adventures Through Kayaking - Guided Kayak Trip"
Tammi, our guide, enthusiastically convinced us that Freshwater Bay was the trip for us. It was a perfect choice! We had fantastic weather. It was sunny and blue on the Olympic Peninsula, which is unusual for January (summer kayakers, however, will likely encounter sunny weather). We went to a fantastic location. In Freshwater Bay and west along the coast we saw colorful sandstone cliffs, quiet coves with rocky beaches, trickling waterfalls, and scenic Bachelor Island. And last but not not least, we had a fantastic guide. Tammi was friendly and professional, and knew all about the area and the wildlife.
We were the only ones on the trip, which was great. And Tammi assured me that there are never more than five kayakers per guide, which helps for wildlife viewing and gives more personal service. One other guide, Sarah, joined us just because she loves the trip so much and hadn’t done it in a while. This immediately gave me a positive impression about the quality of the trip and of the company.
After a short drive, we were given an overview and safety briefing before heading out on the water. In addition to the scenery I described above, we saw tons of wildlife! Tammi was extremely knowledgable about birds. We saw great blue herons, oystercatchers, harlequin ducks, grebes, a bald eagle, and many others. In one cove, there were at least fifteen harbor seals lying on the beach, and more swam around us in the water. Farther west we saw what we think was a sea lion (or an extremely large seal!). Then, on the way back, we were delighted when Sarah spotted four river otters playing on the banks of Bachelor Island. They were so cute!
In addition to the Freshwater Bay trip, Adventures Through Kayaking offers trips to Dungeness Spit, Lake Mills, and Lake Aldwell. Half-day trips cost $68 and full-day trips are $98. All trips include all kayak equipment, transportation, snack or lunch, and a professional guide. Bring drinking water, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, and (optional) camera and/or binoculars.
One trip that I want to do in the future is a full-day trip to Neah Bay ($125). They also have whitewater classes, and offer river trips on inflatable kayaks. Another trip that sounded really fun was a kayak and rock climbing combination done in conjunction with Olympic Mountaineering.
In my opinion, a kayaking trip with Adventures Through Kayaking is a MUST DO on the Olympic Peninsula!
Adventures Through Kayaking
4821 South Dry Creek Road
Port Angeles, Washington 98363
Now, I’ll start by saying that I am about the farthest thing you could find from an art critic. In fact, I don’t know the first thing about art or what might make it good or bad. So my evaluation is a humble one, done only from my first impressions and total lack of education on the subject. Maybe it is better that way . . .
Anyway, the Fine Arts Center building holds changing displays done by Northwest artists. The most recent exhibit is by an artist named Allen Moe, a former Park Ranger at Denali National Park, who is now a full-time artist based in Skagit County, Washington. His exhibit is called Life Vessels and consists of clay pottery covered and decorated with animal skin and parts. Now as disgusting as this sounds, it was really beautiful and creative pottery. There were vessels covered with cow stomachs or deerskin stretched over the clay. The decorations included fish heads, fish scales, ladybugs, and bones--all of which were surprisingly beautiful in this format. The volunteer said that the artist "doesn’t let anything go to waste"--and apparently he gets his materials from salvaged animals and roadkill. The ladybug piece said the ladybugs were found in his attack. From what I’ve seen at this exhibit and others, these indoor exhibits are high quality.
The other aspect of the Fine Arts Center is its "Art Outside" exhibit, which it calls a "museum without walls" in its brochure. Art Outside is a collection of 79 artworks, again by Northwest artists, displayed along walking paths on 5 acres of land called Webster Woods (former estate of Esther Barrows Webster, artist and founder of the Fine Arts Center). Maps are sold for $1. The artwork itself is somewhat intentionally hidden in the wooded landscape. Many of the pieces are made of natural materials and blend in, while others you need to look up in the trees. It will take you some time to find them all.
This is where my analysis of the artwork gets critical. I am an avid outdoors person and appreciate the use of natural materials and that nature is art, but some of these works did not strike me as anything terribly special. Some were interesting and I really liked them, but others looked like one of the neighborhood kids played with rocks or string, and called it artwork. I recommend a visit to judge for yourself.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 12, 2003
Port Angeles Fine Arts Center
1203 East Lauridsen boulevard
Port Angeles, Washington
Attraction | "Arthur D. Feiro Marine Life Center"
The Marine Life Center is owned by the City of Port Angeles and operated in conjuction with Peninsula College. It is a nonprofit venture, staffed with helpful volunteers, with the goal of providing education to local residents and visitors and promoting environmental stewardship. Admission fees are nominal: $2.50 for those over age 12, $1 for seniors, $1 for children 5 to 12, and free for those under age 5.
The Marine Life Center is located on the City Pier in Port Angeles, so it is convenient to visit from the downtown hub where most of the shopping, dining, and waterfront activities take place. It is also located next to Hollywood Beach and the Waterfront Trail. The building has fantastic murals painted on the side and signs welcoming you inside.
Once inside, at first glance the Center appears quite humble--a couple dry displays and some big tubs of water. But once you peek into the tubs, the fun begins! The tubs simulate tidepools, filled with colorful intertidal creatures--sea anemones, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, crabs, starfish, snails, and many more. And not just little ones, either--some of them are HUGE, and SLIMY! One pool is a "gentle touch" pool, which the kids will LOVE. I highly recommend the Marine Life Center for families and children--definitely a "must-see" for kids.
In addition to interpretive signs, there are volunteers on duty to answer questions. You can also find out where the best places are in the area to find tidepools so that you can look for these creatures in the wild. They will teach you about how to see the sea life without doing harm. You can learn about what the animals eat and about the web of life that exists in the sea. The volunteers can likely also tell you about marine mammals and shore birds. Harbor seals and a huge variety of birds are always seen in the area. And occasionally some whales swim by!
If you want to read up on sea life before coming to the Olympic Peninsula, check out the Marine Life Center's website. Also, I found a ton of great information at theOlympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary website. There are good books for purchase at local bookstores and at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center. If you are visiting the west coast of the peninsula, check at the coastal ranger stations of Olympic National Park for the days and times of the free ranger-guided beach and tidepool walks given in the summer.
Summer hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm
Off-season hours: Saturday-Sunday noon-4pm
Marine Life Center
315 North Lincoln Street
Port Angeles, Washington 98362
Port Angeles, Washington